Sunday, June 28, 2009

SuperPoke! Pets - An Emerging Market

Stefan and I have been following an interesting phenomenon: SuperPoke!Pets. SuperPoke, for those of you down on Earth, is a Facebook application you use to not only "poke" your friends, but to tickle, hug, wave at them. You can trow sheep at them, buy drinks for them, hate Monday with them, and so on. There is also a section for good causes, thus you can "fight global poverty with," "go green with," and "save water, shower with" etc.

These messages come with little pictures of pets, sheep, pigs, penguins, kittens. Everybody please: Oh, how cute. This application also exists for other social networking sites.

Since last year you can "adopt" a SuperPoke pet. It's somewhat like a Tamagotchi and it's for free. You get a website with a flash application showing your pet in some background, called a "habitat." You can feed, tickle, wash and play with your pet. If you don't do that regularly, it will look dirty, hungry and unhappy, the poor thing. If you play with your pet, you get "coins." You also get coins if you play with friend's pets or if these play with your pet.

With the coins you go to the "Pet Shop" and buy things to decorate your habitat with. That might be pictures of flowers, or clouds, or toys. You can also buy a new habitat, e.g. different rooms, a playground, a beach, a fitness room, and stuff for these.

Let me then introduce you to my pet, Fury, the sheep, on a picnic:

Cute, eh? Some of the gifs are animated, thus the butterflies are fluttering. Here is Fury's website (you'll have to get a pet yourself to play with it).

There is also a member-forum where pet owners can ask questions like if their pet will die if they go on a trip and can't feed it (it won't), where you can suggest items for the Pet Shop, enter habitat contests, and so on. Further you can get all kinds of rewards for being a good pet owner and community member, there's "Pet Levels" and "Pet Fame" and all kinds of badges you can earn for being a good friend, having trendy accessories and so on. I haven't really figured it all out. After some weeks I started finding the flash animations somewhat annoying and repetitive.

Besides buying stuff with the coins you get from playing with the pets, you can buy "Gold" and go shopping in the "Gold Shop". The gold you buy 10:1 for US$ and charge it on your credit card. Needless to say, the "Gold Items" are fancier than the other ones. They are larger, they are animated, they are the Want-have-stuff. Every Monday, there's new items, and they are sold out really fast. That's right. I find this quite amazing. People buy little cartoon pictures of furniture to combine with a picture of a pet in a flash application. With real money.

The stuff doesn't look remotely realistic btw, the items are all 2-dimensional and you can't even scale them, meaning perspectives often don't fit together. Neither can you move your pet or get it to sit on a chair or play with a toy.

But here is the interesting part.

You can give "gifts" to other pet owners. Since many items in the Pet Shop are meanwhile sold out, it didn't take long for the forum to develop a trading post where people were arranging exchange of items, while others made "garage sales" on their habitats using the possibility to make mutual gifts. Since this was quite clumsy, you can now set up a "Have list" and a "Want list" on your profile. Together with the possibility to exchange messages this works quite well. Since one can't make a simultaneous exchange though there is some trust involved. For all I can tell though, cheating is virtually absent. If a trade has been successful, you can give a "reliable trader" compliment.

You can however only give items as gift, you can not transfer coins. So we have a barter economy! One that is cleanly separated from all other world markets. It is a quite centralized market though since pet owners can't produce any items themselves. Nevertheless, you'll notice some distinct features.

For example rare items are under high demand, because even if you don't want them, you can trade them on. (Since the community has been growing, older items are generally becoming rare.) Once items are sold out, their value becomes basically totally decoupled from the original price. One could argue they tend towards their "true value."

Other items are fairly frequently stocked up, like some food and furniture items. Their prices never change though. This strikes me as a great opportunity to find out how demand depends on the price and, if there was a way to provide supply, if prices reach equilibrium and under which circumstances. I also wonder whether the barter economy will eventually discover some suitable item that can take the place of money.

All together we seem to be witnessing the birth of a new market economy. It's itching in my fingers to see some data about consumer's behavior...

And finally, here is Stefan's pet: Struppi the puppy


  1. Fury the Sheep! Nice. Much better than "Furry." Do they have Myxine glutinosa? That is almost as good as it gets (top banana being Eptatretus goliath).

  2. Hm, so far I am not participating in this community/trade business. Maybe I should give it a try ;-)

    Cheers, Stefan

  3. Seems like a harmless time-pass. :)
    If I get a Brenin the Wolf, will it prey on your Fury the Sheep?

  4. I'm afraid there's no wolves in superpoke land. And you can't leave your habitat anyway.

  5. That makes it very tame!
    My pet should be able to eat yours, and you should be able to file a Superpoke lawsuit. :)

  6. They might condemn you to 15 years of tickling. I agree though, I would like to have an option to visit somebody else's pet and kick their ass, that would be much more fun.

  7. The only thing you are wrong about is the remark about "virtually no cheating" on the trade forums. Cheating, AKA "scamming", is RAMPANT and the scammer's list is as long as your arm, literally and growing by the day. Yes, people make a career out of stealing pixelated objects--often from young kids. Now that is sad.

  8. LOL!!! So funny actually!! I've played SPP (as it has come to be called...I'd like to think I "coined" the phrase when I started the "SPP-ers who totally rock list" on the forum where people can "recommend" trusted & fair traders). It's one of two things actually, you either add the app, play & get bored fast...or become an SPP-Addict! (I am among the addicts, maybe we all need rehab!)
    As far as people spending "real" money on pixels, it's been going on forever (Gaia, for example...NeoPets for another)'s not like SPP has the market cornered here!! Yes, as anonymous said, scamming is big problem, hence the "SPP-ers who totally rock list". Not everyone uses it, unfortunately. It's like telling a little kid not to poke his hand in a bee hive. They don't listen they have to find out for themselves. I, for one, have traded frequently & (knock on wood) have NEVER been scammed. Of course, I follow my own advice. I only trade with people I know & trust...if I don't know them already, guess what..if they dont' send their share of the trade first, they ain't getting anything I have! Yes, the gold items are much nicer...for example, the habitats are mostly one "room". There's been a few 2-room habitats but not many...the gold ones are usually 4 rooms...there's one "room" ones but they're still nicer than the one room "coin" habitats. A word to Stefan, if you're still actively involved in SPP and want to trade, PLEASE do check out above thread on the forum before you do any trading!! If you want some "assistance", advice, general "point me in the right direction" kind of stuff, my pet Ulysess can be found here: I practically live there! LOL Send me a friend request (I'll take note of your pet's name just in case!) thru the forum and ask away! (My settings are set so I can only get messages from'd be amazed at the number of people that BEG for your stuff!!! It's disgusting actually! Usually for the gold stuff. Come on now, at .10 cents per gold bar, that comes out pretty low for most things until you get to the habitats & masterpieces..oh, yeah, SPP has them too! They are pet versions of REAL masterpieces like there's "Dragon Rockwell" & "Pets Playing Poker"...a Nativity Statue, Queen Neferkitty statue-Nefertity, etc)
    They release 10-20 of those & they are gone in seconds!! At $50 a shot!!)
    I'm off to collect my log in bonus (spin the wheel & get a chance at 50,000 coins!)and stuff. :)

  9. All I wanna know is HOW DO YOU GET MORE COINS WITHOUT ALL THE WORK!? People know tricks but I sure don't. ANYONE?

  10. No tricks. Just play. Or let others play for that matter. And do me a favor and don´t pass on these stupid chain mails.

  11. It's really cute! I'll give it a try one day.

  12. how do i buy things on my want list??
    im so frustrated on that! please help!

  13. Anonymous: You can't buy them. That's why they are on your Want List. The list says you're looking for somebody who is willing to trade them for something on your Have List. Btw, there is a forum on the SPP site where you can post all your questions. This is not the right place to do it. Best,


  14. Why do you have to use real money to buy gold on superpoke pets!!! why cant u just buy gold with pet points. i think that its really stupid to make us use our real money to buy gold idems!!! there not even real things so why do you have to use real money!!! Thats just plain stupid i think.

  15. Dawn: Keep in mind somebody out there in the "real world" has to do "real work" to provide the software and to maintain the hardware. They need "real money" to pay for a place to sleep and something to eat.

  16. What consumer data would you be interested in seeing in regards to this marketplace?

  17. To begin with demand depending on supply and price.

  18. Highly entertaining Sadly dramatic! Nowaday the only thing in Superpoke Pets is drama drama drama! I've had it with the game! For those ready to try it, have your tylenol ready or prozac!

  19. I have had no problems with trading really and now there is a value system which I like and think is fair and also now you can trade trauma free with the new trading feature that involves the have and want lists and proposing a trade and then the items are automatically exchanged :)


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